Do prescription drug advertisements educate the public? The consumer answers

Henry N. Young, Debora A Paterniti, Robert A Bell, Richard L Kravitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Increasing reliance upon direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) to promote prescription medications has intensified debate about advertising effects on patients and the educational merits of the advertisements. This research investigates, from the consumers' point of view, the capacity of drug advertising to educate. We conducted focus groups to examine consumers' drug information needs as well as their perceptions of DTCA's usefulness and quality. Information needs reported by participants included drug purpose, risks, benefits, cost information, and treatment options. Participants felt DTCA raised awareness but provided limited information about the benefits, harms, and uses of specific drugs. Perceived limitations of DTC advertisements include garbled messages, poor formats, and sparse details about clinical research, costs, and comparative therapies. Findings indicate drug advertisements may not serve to educate consumers in the way DTCA proponents contend. The educational value of DTCA could be improved by requiring advertisements to provide specific drug and medical condition information in a format easily understood by lay audiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-33
Number of pages9
JournalDrug Information Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005


  • Drug Advertising
  • Educational Value
  • Opinions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Pharmacology
  • Nursing(all)


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